Using Ergonomics to Address the Needs of an Aging Workforce

By 2021, we can anticipate that one out of every four employees will be over the age of 55. In fact, in todayís workforce, approximately one in four (24%) persons aged 65 to 70 is still working, up from 11% in 2000. These rising statistics are due in large part to the baby boomer generation now reaching middle age. As well, people are generally living longer, thus the number of people in the older age categories is increasing.

As a result, itís important to address some of the common physical effects of aging to ensure we are keeping our employees safe and productive in the workplace. Some examples include:

  • Muscle strength and endurance decreases
  • Range of motion and reach distance reduction
  • Sharpness in vision decreases

These can be addressed with a variety of simple and cost-effective ergonomic controls:

  • Increased use of mechanical assists, carts and conveyors
  • Proper storage heights
  • Lessening of loads (e.g. pack in smaller quantities
  • Improved layout to keep work with "handshake zone"
  • Use of grip-friendly tools and easy to turn valves or lids
  • Use of power tools
  • Adjustable and supportive seating
  • Increased light levels (low glare, high quality)
  • Use of contrasting colours, minimize irrelevant info on monitors and written materials

Assessing and designing workstations and tasks using ergonomic principles has excellent cost-benefit potential. Not only does it assist your older workers with the physical element s of their job but it also prevents injuries to your younger workers. A true best-case scenario!

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